Friday, May 11, 2007

Cagayanon Palparan wooes Oro, Misamis Oriental votes

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Ben Balce / May 11) – Controversial retired major general Jovito Palparan Jr. yesterday said he was optimistic his party-list group Bantay would win votes in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental that are needed for the group to send representatives to the Lower House.

Palparan, who rose to national prominence for his fight against communist rebels, is the top nominee of the party-list group Bantay. The group has four nominees.

In a news conference here, the 57-year old Palparan said he was seeking the help of Cagayanons and Misamisnons.

Palparan is a native of Cagayan de Oro. He was born on Antonio Luna street and he went to grade school and high school in the city.

“My appeal to my fellow Cagayanons is that they vote for Bantay, not Palparan, in Monday’s elections,” said Palparan.

Palparan said he plans to pursue his crusade against the communist insurgency in Congress.

“There is nothing wrong in communism as an ideology. What is wrong is their armed rebellion,” said Palparan.

Palparan has been accused of masterminding the killings of activists in the countrysides, a charge that he vehemently denied.

“Do you know what Bantay is? Yung ‘Bowowow’? The dog is the man’s best friend,” said Palparan, adding that the group would be the Filipino’s “best friend” in Congress.

Palparan said national security and the economy were on top of his priorities.

“With my entry, my focus will be on the communities that have become victims of our security problems. We have problems in economics and security,” Palparan said.

“There are direct victims and consequential victims. In the communities, people cannot work because of the conflict.”

Palparan said communist rebels want people to remain poor so they could exploit them.

“”It is not true that they want to uplift the lives of the people.”

Many people, he said, are unskilled, and “because they lack the skills, they cannot find work.”

In a way, Palparan said, Bantay could be described as an “anti-communist group.”
“Communism is nagging problem,” he said. “Insurgentss promote revolution, and we cannot allow that.”


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Ceasefire chief cites economic gains of peace process

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Mike Baños / May 8) - There's a clear link between peace and economic development, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the erstwhile conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

This was the observation made by BGen. Edgardo Gurrea, chief of government's Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (GRP-CCCH), in a series of peace advocacy forums conducted across military camps in South Central Mindanao over the weekend.

In his presentation, Gurrea said that between 2002 to 2005, the number of violent encounters between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) went down from almost 700 to 10, registering a drop rate of 97.3 percent.

This dramatic reduction, he said, resulted to an economic growth rate of nearly 18 percent in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). That record, Gurrea added, represented the "highest Gross Regional Domestic Product growth rate nationwide for CY 2003-2004."

Government and the MILF had begun ceasefire talks as early as July 1997. Implementing guidelines have been drafted since then, and various ceasefire mechanisms have been put in place.

Among these are the joint GRP-MILF CCCH, the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group that coordinates police action against criminal activities within conflict areas, and the International Monitoring Team which helps monitor and preserve the integrity of the ceasefire.

Keeping the peace has not been easy, though. Major battles were seen in the MILF's Camp Abubakar in 2001 and in its last stronghold in Buliok Complex in Maguindanao in 2003. Despite these, and the periodic reports of alleged ceasefire violations from both sides notwithstanding, Gurrea insists the truce is holding up.

"And we have the dividends to prove it," he said. Among these is the increasing interest and commitment from the donor community. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) has just begun the spadework for a two-year study on the socio-economic reconstruction of conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

Canada has just put in an additional P40 million to fund development efforts in the island, on top of the P30 million it already shelled out last year. And the European Union has pledged to pitch in to the World Bank-administered Mindanao Trust Fund to the tune of one million euros.

News reports confirmed that, contrary to previous norms and in recognition of earnest peace-building efforts being undertaken today by civil society, donor countries are now willing to support development initiatives even if a peace agreement has yet to be reached.

Other benefits cited by Gurrea are (1) a "marked improvement" in the level of trust between MILF and government forces as manifested in joint socio-civic activities and anti-crime operations, and (2) a broadening of awareness of local government officials on the "imperatives of an enduring peace in Mindanao."

Gurrea said the GRP-MILF-IMT CCCH is also inviting media to a tripartite conference launching at Pryce Plaza Hotel on May 9, 8:30AM.